New Orleans has entered the golden age of pizza.

Pizza Delicious

Pizza Delicious

It hasn’t been that many years since Sugar Park was the cream of New Orleans savory pie crop, and that speaks more to the plight of pizza loving New Orleanians than it does the quality of Sugar Park’s kitchen.

That all began to change back in 2009 when Alon Shaya opened Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel and ushered in the modern era of pizza in New Orleans. Shaya did it with the help of the deep pockets of John Besh and a charcuterie program that has no rival in the Deep South.

Domenica is ground zero for cured meat.

But sometimes we just want to walk a couple blocks down the street and grab a pie to go without the hassle of trying to park in the CBD and that’s when we give Pizza Delicious a call.

Nowadays the landscape of New Orleans dining scene is chockablock with good pizza. From Ancora to Wood to St. Clair to Oak Oven, no matter what part of town you live in you’re never more than 10 minutes from a delicious pie.

We’re calling it a golden age.

I earned a good living as a teenager delivering pizza in the backwoods of Kentucky. One of my best friends in high school, Billy Storms, got hired at Mr. Gatti’s and immediately set about gaining employment for his band of cohorts.

I had a red Toyota Tercel, time on my hands, and a need to earn some cash to take care of my expensive habits: comic book collecting, buying records, shopping trips to Spencer Gifts, and traveling around the Cumberland Highlands in search of chili buns and onion rings.

I was 16.

Deep In The Lower 9th Ward Of New Orleans

Deep In The Lower 9th Ward Of New Orleans

Tuesday March 24 2015, Domino’s Pizza delivery driver Michael Price was slain in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans while he was attempting to deliver a pie. He was 36 years old.

Price’s death follows that of Richard Yeager, also a Domino’s driver, who was killed in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans 6 months ago.

Murder is commonplace in New Orleans in 2015.

We’re a city that has seen forty homicides this year and we have yet to reach April. Shooters openly roam the streets, crime is soaring and there appears to be no end in sight.

Regular folks are dodging hot lead on a monthly basis as they try to earn a living and keep food on the table for their family.

And now that it’s open season on delivery drivers in our town there’s a groundswell of support for them to begin arming themselves so they can get in shootouts with would be robbers.

We hear crazy gunfire every single night in the Bywater and we imagine it would be magnified greatly if the area’s pizza delivery workers starting getting in running gun battles with local bad guys.

As theater it sounds fantastic, but as a practical matter we’re unswayed. If Domino’s started running ads for new drivers by trumpeting that they offer the latest in high caliber fire power for all pie guys we’re not sure they would get the best candidates.

Tipping could very well improve if area cheapskates were made aware of the fact that the guy they were planning on stiffing is carrying a sidearm.

As acolytes of Nagarjuna we have to believe there is a better way, a middle path if you will.

When I was a teenage pizza delivery driver it never occurred to me that there may be someone who would do me harm. I worried about running over possums, hillbillies who didn’t know how to tip, how much pizza I could eat off the buffet without drawing attention to myself; things of that nature.

But in New Orleans if you’re delivering food for a living the thought of having violence visited upon you is a real fear.

Established in 1934, Zuppardi’s is one of the heavyweights of New Haven, Connecticut’s pizza scene. That storied town has given birth to Pepe’s Pizzeria Napolitano (est.1925) Modern Appiza (est.1934) Sally’s Apizza (est.1938) as well as newcomer Bar (est.1996)

photo credit Michael Stern

photo credit Michael Stern

Each restaurant has its adherents with respective eaters claiming that their favorite is the only one-true-pizzeria.

New Haven pies are known for their deep-char on the crust resulting from a lengthy ride through a coal-burning oven. Some pizzerias in that town no longer burn that precious black fuel resulting in much scorn and ridicule from old school locals. Unfortunately Zuppardi’s is now in that camp. Perhaps the fact that they’re actually across the river in West Haven affords them some sort of reprieve?

An obvious comparison point would be the barbecue pits of Central Texas where some of the modern pit bosses now run gas smokers instead of building an honest fire out of oak logs.

Zuppardi’s place on the pizza map is secured via their freshly shucked Little Neck clam pie that features copious amounts of garlic riding the briny clams for all they’re worth. Fresh clam juice flows like the Mississippi.

They also make a fennel sausage pie that is so popular they roll through half a ton of handmade sausage every single month. Make sure and ask for a liberal dousing of hot cherry peppers to be sprinkled all over your apizza, that’s how the West Haven regulars do it.

We’re complete marks for homemade sausage, that’s why we started our Texas Hot Guts Project years ago; handmade Texas sausage was dying out and we would be damned if we let that happen so we bought the equipment and started churning out fresh sausage every chance we got.

Zuppardi’s celebrated their 80th birthday on December 7th of last year and will be celebrating by driving their brand spanking new pizza truck from Connecticut to New Orleans this weekend March 28-29th 2015 for the website Roadfood’s New Orleans Food Festival, it’s the 7th one in a row.

They’ll be parked in the French Market hard up against the Mississippi River.

Saturday March 28th 2015 11am-7pm
Sunday March 29th 2015 11am-6pm

Admission is free

One of my favorite plates of food in New Orleans: the soft shell crab platter at Jack Dempsey’s on Poland Avenue in the Bywater.

Jack Dempsey's Restaurant

Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant

Yes, the bread is lousy plain old white toast, but the synergy of flavors that happens when you combine perfectly fried soft shell crabs with creamy macaroni and cheese is nearly impossible to beat.

Jack Dempsey’s is a culinary treasure trove and is the quintessential New Orleans neighborhood restaurant. This is where Bywater locals go to eat when we want low key chow, carefully prepared and served by a passel of little old lady waitresses who never run out of “honey lambs” and “sugar dumplings” as they make their rounds.

Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant
738 Poland Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117

Hours:
Sunday Closed
Monday Closed
Tuesday 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 – 9:00 pm